How Personal Property Taxes Work

Jet Ski
Having to pay personal property taxes on watercraft can put a damper on that fun Jet Ski outing.
Mustafa Ozer/AFP/ Getty Images

You may already know that you need to pay property taxes on your real estate, like land, a house or a building. But what about your car, the new boat you just bought or even Fido?

Depending on what state you live in, you could have to pay personal property taxes on these and other items. Personal property taxes are usually assessed as a percentage of the value of an item. They can fall under county or state taxes, depending on where you live. Not all states tax personal property, however, and what is subject to personal property taxes varies widely from state to state.


In some states, the personal property tax refers mostly to household personal property items. Often that means a vehicle, like your car or truck. When buying such an item, you have to remember to take such taxes into consideration as part of the total cost. Expensive new cars often have the highest taxes, since personal property taxes are usually a percentage of the vehicle's worth.

In other states, the personal property tax only applies to businesses. In those states, personal property is anything that can be removed from the business without damaging it. For example, you can't remove the walls of the business, so those aren't taxed under personal property. But you could take out the office furniture, which is something that many states do tax.

If you lived on a farm, the land would be taxed under real estate property taxes. If you lived in a state with personal property taxes, you might also have to pay personal property taxes on your farming equipment and your livestock.

In this article you'll find out how personal property taxes are assessed from state to state, and what can make your property tax bill change.